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News Briefs I

Israel, Lebanon Near Cease-Fire

The Washington Post

In a day of seesaw diplomacy, Secretary of State Warren Christopher met late into the night with Syrian President Hafez Assad, struggling to nail down a final compromise for a cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon's Shiite Muslim guerrillas.

U.S. officials were heartened by a reported burst of progress during a first three-hour meeting with Assad. After a long break during which Christopher met with Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, Christopher went back to the presidential palace for a second session that aides said might be critical to the ultimate fate of the negotiations.

Christopher flew to Jerusalem after the second session to seek final approval of the Israeli government for the cease-fire accord. While cautiously optimistic, Christopher and his aides refrained from making any predictions because of the fractious and unpredictable nature of the Israeli cabinet.

The goal of the Christopher's diplomatic shuttle between Jerusalem and Damascus over the past six days has been to secure a lasting cease-fire through precise understandings that would proscribe attacks against civilians on either side of the border.

The final give-and-take has focused on establishing an international committee to monitor any violations of the cease-fire. The most difficult issues at the eleventh hour, according to informed sources, have centered on how to ensure a freeze on retaliatory raids while an investigation is conducted to determine who is to blame. The other question remaining to be resolved is who, along with the United States, would serve on the committee.

Chechen Chief Rejects Peace Talks

The Washington Post

President Boris Yeltsin's month-old initiative to halt the fighting in the breakaway province of Chechnya, already in trouble, suffered new setbacks Thursday from fresh violence, the withdrawal of a key intermediary and renewed vows of revenge by the successor to slain Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev.

Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, the new rebel leader, spoke to reporters at an undisclosed location near Urus Martan, his first news conference since confirmation came Wednesday of Dudayev's death on Sunday. He said the Chechen separatists would fight on and not negotiate until they could "punish" Dudayev's killers.

"We have only one problem: to free the country from the aggressor," he said, referring to Russia, which sent troops in December 1994 to put down a 3-year-old separatist rebellion. Since then, 30,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.

Peace talks with Russia will not be started, Yandarbiyev declared, if the rebels discover that Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin ordered the slaying of Dudayev, who was killed by a rocket attack while talking on a portable satellite telephone in a field.

Although neither Dudayev's body nor grave has been found, his death was confirmed by field commander Shamil Basayev.

Senate Rejects Provision That Would Curb Legal Immigration

Los Angeles Times

The Senate, keeping its focus on illegal immigration, on Thursday overwhelmingly rejected efforts to reduce the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States.

Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., had attempted to insert a provision in the illegal immigration bill he wrote that would have significantly cut legal immigration over the next five years and altered the current family-based visa system.

Senators rebuffed Simpson's amendment on a vote of 80-20 after a bipartisan group of lawmakers argued that illegal and legal immigration ought to be addressed separately. A similar amendment by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also was shelved.

The Senate's action reduces the likelihood that Congress will pass legislation addressing legal immigration this year.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service announced in March, while the Simpson bill was being considered in committee, that 593,000 foreigners were granted residency last year, a 10.4 percent drop from 1994. INS officials used the decrease to argue that deep cuts in legal immigration were not needed.